August 1, 2011

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Olives, and Ricotta Salata - Healthy and Delicious

The other day we were browsing through an issue of La Cucina Italiana trying to figure out something new to try. We were, as always, in the mood for pasta with a red sauce, but we had broccoli on hand and wanted to make something healthy.

I am getting bored with these veggies... bring on the meat!

This lovely dish jumped right out at us, as we already had ricotta salata on hand from our Pasta alla Norma. The original recipe called for a wide variety of olives, but our local supermarket could only provide one variety - black Cerignola. So we swapped out the green Cerignolas and Gaeta olives called for in the original recipe with copious amounts of black Cerignolas, and it worked out just right.

Making the Dish
Finely chopped ingredients
This is one of those dishes that requires a lot of chopping, but after that initial prep is complete, very little work to finish. So start off by getting all of your ingredients prepared. Dice up the celery stalk, carrot, shallot, and all the olives. Open up a can of whole peeled tomatoes (or if you have them, simply use fresh plum tomatoes), drain the can, and roughly chop the tomato flesh into cubes. Lastly, chop up the head of broccoli into nice small florets.

Simmering together the carrots, celery, shallots, and olives

Once this is done, heat up some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Throw in your olives, celery, carrot, and shallot and cook briefly. After about two minutes, add in the chopped tomatoes and a cup of water, bring the mix to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

Adding the roughly chopped tomatoes

Cook the olive and tomato mix until most of the liquid has evaporated. This gives the sauce a chance to absorb all the wonderful flavor from the celery and carrot and really come together.

All the liquid evaporated after 30 minutes of cooking

After about 15 minutes of simmering, you can start on the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and dump in your orecchiette and cook until 1 minute shy of the package directions. When you're 5 minutes away from finishing the pasta, drop the broccoli florets into the boiling water. That's right - instead of using a separate pot to cook these guys, you'll do it all in one.

Broccoli and orecchiette cooking together - one pot, two jobs

La Cucina advised us to put the broccoli in at the beginning, but this lead to overcooking and somewhat mushy broccoli. If you work it out so they'll spend only 5 minutes in the water, they'll turn out great.

Methinks you should have realized on your own that cooking broccoli for 10 minutes was a bad idea, regardless of what the magazine said...
Drain the pasta and the broccoli and reserve a half cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the orecchiette into the olive and tomato mixture, and add in the cooking liquid as needed to loosen it up into more of a sauce.

Tossing together the orecchiette and broccoli with the olive tomato mixture.

Scoop out the pasta and mixture into serving bowls, and cover with a generous grating of ricotta salata cheese.

Pasta and vegetables, ready to eat.

The Result
The ricotta salata, although not added to the very end, plays a very important role in this dish. It contrasts beautifully with the olives which shine through the pasta sauce. The carrot and celery impart a sweetness to the sauce, and the broccoli gives it a bit of heft so it feels like you're eating a ragu.

All in all, this was a great find. Just be sure not to overcook the brocoli!

Who doesn't love olives? Tell us your favorite way to use olives in the comments so we can try it in our kitchen!

Click through for the full ingredients list!

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Olives, and Ricotta Salata

Written by:

A delicious vegetable dish that features olives and ricotta salata for a beautiful flavor

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:

(Serves: 2 - 4)

1/2 lb orecchiette
2 cups black Cerignola olives - pitted and chopped
1 celery stalk
1 chopped carrot
1 shallot
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup water
1 head broccoli
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata cheese


  1. remember: DON'T VISIT herbie's site @ lunch time !!

  2. Hehe, thanks Pentapata - we'll take that as a compliment :)


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